CUYAHOGA FALLS — Hearts were warmed on C.O.O.L. Day 2018 when nearly 600 volunteers converged on Pierce and Monroe avenues to spruce up 36 homes.

C.O.O.L. is Community Outreach of Love, a non-profit, interdenominational ministry that provides a platform for local churches and businesses to work together to bring life-changing service to local communities. The work of C.O.O.L. culminates the first Saturday in June when hundreds annually come together to serve in practical ways to bless the residents in a given community.

This year, C.O.O.L. came to Cuyahoga Falls.

Founded 10 years ago by Cindy Mandrell of North Canton, the ministry reaches beyond fixing porches and planting flowers.

“It is our attempt to express the heart of Jesus to people,” Mandrell said. “All ages and all gifts and abilities are welcome in a C.O.O.L. Day project.”

The theme for this year's project was "Behold, I will do something new” (Isaiah 43:19). Every volunteer received a free T-shirt to wear on C.O.O.L. Day. 

“This is huge … Oh, man. This is huge,” said Paul Huff, who was taking a break after a busy morning volunteering with fellow members of St. Luke's Lutheran Church. “This is several church groups working together to help some people out with their houses.”

Huff said most of the people the C.O.O.L. ministry is helping are elderly or are residents with disabilities. He said each church has been given a couple houses to work at.

“We're doing lawn work, painting porches,” Huff said, adding some people are completing more skilled tasks such as electrical work. “I'm good for manual labor. I can't do a thing. Dig that hole. Paint that pole.”

Huff said he removed screws from a porch and then he and his daughter Abbi helped paint the porch and fence. Huff said he then did some digging around the house, clearing away shrubs and spreading mulch. “It was great. Everybody did something. Some people, including my wife, brought food,” he said.

Becky Macko coordinated the volunteers from St. Luke's. Macko said she got involved in C.O.O.L. Day when its founder, Mandrell, called her and said she felt called to reach out to residents of Cuyahoga Falls this year. Mandrell was recruiting volunteers from local churches.

“We said, 'Well yeah, we'll be a part of it,'” Macko said. “There are 13 other churches besides ours … We have 42 volunteers here from St. Luke's.” She said planning began in April and volunteers learned what kind of work needed to be done about a month ago.

“We were assigned homes based on what we were willing to do,” Macko said. Jobs varied from painting, mulching and planting to installing siding, building a porch and laying a gravel driveway. “It depends on what the homeowners needed,” she said.

St. Joseph Parish also participated in this day of doing good. The church and school was represented by more than 50 volunteers who gardened, painted, patched concrete, trimmed trees and other spring cleaning those homeowners either were unable to do or did not have time to do. All work and materials were free to the homeowners.

??“It was a wonderful day of stewardship and community. What a wonderful way to kick off June,” said Fr. Jared Orndorff, pastor of St. Joseph Parish. “Many thanks to all volunteers and to J&J Plumbing and Summit Construction who underwrote all the necessary materials for the St. Joseph teams.”

Many benefit from a C.O.O.L. Day project, said Mandrell. 

“The people that we’re serving, we want them to know why we’re doing what we’re doing,” she said. “That is because of God who died on the cross for our sins, expecting nothing in return. He did it because he loves us … That’s why we do everything with excellence and use the best paint and the best mulch.” 

Mandrell said along with the residents, the volunteers and the churches benefit because they find out they have “untapped gifts God can use to show his love to people. We’re called to show our love to other people.”

The businesses also benefit because they become known for giving back to the community, Mandrell said, adding the companies, however, don’t care about being known. “They just want to give back,” she said.

“Bailey Road Tavern has blown me away,” Mandrell said of the bar nearby that offered to feed the volunteers. “I thought they were going to have a little hot dog and hamburger giveaway on the corner of their parking lot … “They fed all of the volunteers and they did macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, hamburgers, hot dogs and chips.”  

Macko said C.O.O.L. Day is a worthwhile project she was glad to be a part of.

“It's amazing, the transformation in the homeowners as well as the people from the church actually making an impact in sharing God's love,” she said. “That's what we're here for. It's not just what's needed to be done on the outside but what's needed to be done on the inside.”

Macko said one of the homeowners was a little skeptical when she was told a group of people wanted to come spruce up her house free of charge.

“I thought it was a scam,” said Pat Burgan standing in front of her house at 23 Pierce Ave. “The first time they came around to talk to me, I told them, 'No,' because I really didn't know what it was … They came back out and told me exactly what it was. And said, 'Yes,' and I'm glad I did.”

“It's wonderful. Unbelievable,” said Burgan, who in addition to having her porch painted and wired with lights and her yard landscaped, she was also honored with a cake. In addition to receiving some free TLC for her home, Burgan was also honored with a party to celebrate her upcoming 86th birthday on July 9.

The following churches participated in the C.O.O.L. Day project:

Churches participating in C.O.O.L. Day 2018:
Bailey Road Christian Church
Chapel Hill Church
Church in the Falls
Community Vineyard Church
Cuyahoga Chapel Church of God
First United Methodist Church
Grace Summit Community Church
Lighthouse Christian Fellowship
Northampton UMC
Northwest Ave Church of Christ
Redeemer Lutheran Church
St. Luke's Lutheran Church
St. Joseph Parish
The Chapel, Cuyahoga Falls

Reporter Steve Wiandt, can be reached at 330-541-9420, or @SteveWiandt_RPC.